Nature is not natural and can never be naturalized — Graham Harman

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Hyperobjects Cover: Silence Speaks



Don't you think? That's the word that occurs to me as soon as I see it: silence. Partly because I'm totally breathless, as was the editorial team when they saw it the other day. Partly because...well hyperobjects are unspeakable and what is happening to that iceberg is unspeakable and how big is it and how big is the sky and ...

6 comments:

amanda vox said...

I had never seen a picture of a full iceberg like that! howcome? I just looked it up now and there are many different ones around. !. that's great.

Chris Washington said...

Amazing, amazing.

Laurel Thompson said...


I did not attend the “Nonhuman Turn”conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee last May, but having read Adrian Ivakhiv's helpful summaries and watched a video of you speaking on YouTube, I wonder if I could make a comment about hyperobjects and “They Are Here”?
In your speech, you try to get philosophers to realize that there are others “out there” and that things like melting glaciers are real. This is a noble objective which I fully support, but I think you may going about it in the wrong way.
Philosophers don't need to be made to feel anxiety. They have house payments, unemployment, illness, just like the rest of us. The reason why some of them seem indifferent to the plight of others or the ferocity of global warming is not because they don't know what insecurity is. It's because they write and talk so much. Forgive me for being blunt, but they write and talk continuously, and this allows them to hold the scarier events of life at a distance. Basically, it's a delaying tactic, a smokescreen. They'll get to the accident scene eventually, but in the meantime they prefer to analyze its structure so that they know what they are getting into.

Persuading professional abstract thinkers to forgo abstractions is a tough one. If philosophers are going to be more cognizant of the realities we all share they will need to do more than think about the nonhuman, as in the nonhuman turn. They will need to become more realistic, and that means using our other form of knowledge – perception – on a regular basis and exploring the knowledge we get from it. It also means getting control over language. This will be difficult, because perception is buried beneath all the words. It is also hopelessly entangled with language and does not usually have a snail's chance of holding its own against the representational system we use to think with.

What's interesting about the nonhuman turn currently underway is that some philosophers apparently want to think more realistically e.g. your speech and the attention to objects. They just don't realize that they may have to stop talking to get there. That's because you can't talk and perceive at the same time. Perception's hold on our attention is so weak in comparison with language's that skilful admen can convince slaves that they are free, sick people that they are well, poor people that they can afford to buy a house. Some wordsmiths are so seductive and ubiquitous they steal attention away from imminent death and should be declared a public nuisance. Even you probably don't realize where you are half the time.

Nevertheless, there is a way to beef up perception so that thinking with our senses is at least competitive with thinking using language and in some instances supercedes it. (It's a different kind of thinking so they are difficult to compare.) It involves seeing where you are. To see where we are requires the incorporation of another dimension into normal perception – a bit of the magic you said we need. By strictly focusing on one of the many beautiful things in front of us – a shoe, a rock, a kitchen knife -- and by including the universe in our vision, it's possible to expand perceptual awareness of what exists so that the enormous size and mystery of our physical situation is more transparent and words become obsolete. Useless. Irrelevant. This is a more thorough way to wake up to the actual world we live in than experimenting with other peoples' anxiety, though I too am ashamed of how much inequality there is and would definitely prefer a more socialist economic system. But figuring out how to include some of the bigger dimensions that are here in our perception goes deeper into the situation we all share because it's trying to literally see more. For more on this combination of deep perception, things and intimidated language see my blog universeonearth.org -- Laurel Thompson




Peter Weise said...

Beautiful cover, Tim!

And in response to Laurel Thompson: I wonder if in your distinction between language and perception, language is becoming a non-object as though it is merely a means to an end and a bad one at that. Wordsworth, I think, explores this question at the beginning of book 5 of /The Prelude/ when he writes about the frailty of all human-created objects and then imagines himself as a frail human object like any other one. The nonhuman turn might get us to think about an ontological equality among all such objects rather than a primacy of perception.

Ana Miron said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hC3VTgIPoGU&feature=player_embedded

Laurel Thompson said...

Remember what James Balog said towards the end of "Chasing Ice", "We have a problem of perception. We don't get it."